Saturday, September 3rd, Wednesday, September 7th, and Saturday, September 10th. Those three dates collectively represent a pivotal point in this, the second year of Union’s existence. Be it the unscheduled bye-week, or the ton of rain we got due to Pain-in-the-Ass-Storm Irene, but the slate feels wiped clean. But only temporarily.
This Saturday, Union travel to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on Real Salt Lake. This is the match that was rescheduled because RSL was trying to secure domination over the region, and they lost in the final of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament. They’ve cleaned their faces of tears since then and are back to their normal top-of-MLS form, so this match is very important. This is the statement where I become a broken record: A draw in this match, normally, would be acceptable, but Union’s amassing of draws makes this a must-win. Now that I got that out of the way, let’s boil this one down. RSL are missing a handful of players to international duty and injury. Union are missing the suddenly error-prone Carlos Valdes to mandatory 1-game red card suspension. RSL still has that nasty-haired Kyle Beckerman because Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t plan to use him on 9/2 friendly against Costa Rica. More detail tomorrow in a match preview, this REALLY is a must-win.
The trap game is the also-rescheduled match versus New England Revolution. A number of fans will be annoyed that this match was rescheduled from a weekend to mid-week. I’ll be annoyed if Union win by fewer than 2 goals. The biggest impediment to Union in this fixture is complacency. They are not in a position to take a sorry-ass team like the Revs for granted. There will likely be some different faces in the lineup because some of the guys will need to be rested after the RSL match. The key will be those players playing like they want to earn a more playing time.
The last of this trifecta is a home date with the Portland Timbers. The hope here is that Union have built some momentum from solid, inspired play from the rest of the week, and they overwhelm Portland with high-quality play. Worst-case scenario: We’re looking at this match as one we hope to salvage at least a point from so that the week isn’t a complete disaster.
The team will be missing Keon Daniel to international duty, which sucks for us because that means more Justin Mapp (boooooo). It may, also, mean more time for Michael Farfan (yaaaaaaaay). This is also the time that Freddy Adu needs to accelerate his learning curve and orchestrate Union’s offense the way we all optimistically think he can. The offense has been stagnant for a large majority of the season and Freddy certainly has some playmaking ability. He needs to prove his worth to the team in the run of play, and make sure that Sebastien Le Toux doesn’t take any more corner kicks. It’s also time for Danny Mwanga to score some goals. Especially, if I’m claiming that this week defines the entire season. It would be nice if Carlos Ruiz doesn’t end the season as the team’s leading scorer.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
Seattle has invented everything just recently, and are looking to add to their invention of pissing off the rest of the US soccer world if they can get past FC Dallas in the USOC semis for their third straight USOC championship game (and title). Let’s all hope that Sigi doesn’t pull his scarf too tight around his neck and pop his head off. That wouldn’t be a pretty site. The other MLS team in it still is Chicago, unfourtanately for them, the other team looks like they will show up to the game.
In Union news, not much Union news. It’s hard enough to get new news bits from a team with closed lips, it’s even worse when we don’t have a game for 2 weeks. I don’t even know what day it is now.
Speaking of blowouts, Columbus Crew did the Union a huge favor at Seattle by not showing up and losing 6-2. That’s representing the Eastern conference for you.
Congrats to the Crew’s Jeff Cunningham on surpassing Jaime Moreno for the most career MLS goals. Now back to obscurity with you.
In around the world news – Diego Maradona is coaching over in Dubai for Al Wasl FC. He has an annual salary of 3.5 million, and a private jet at his disposal for 2 seasons. Someone is #winning all over the place right now.
Yes I just made a 5 month old Charlie Sheen joke. But seriously, what else are you going to do on a private jet than hookers and blow. We’re also talking about the “Hand of God” here, so of course he’s doing that. Don’t expect him to be using that jet for something like aiding earthquake survivors.
Weatherwise, it’s been a rough week. Starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, then airplanes. Well, Lenny Bruce was not afraid. Then a eye of a hurricane, can you hear yourself churn? In all serious, REM aside, we at UU hope everyone is alright and that your power’s back.
Sunday, August 28 @ 7pm, PPL Park in Chester, PA
Match prediction: This match won’t get played.
Hurricane Irene is going to rip the East Coast a new one, engulfing us in perilous amounts of rain and wind. On second thought, maybe the wind will help Sebastien Le Toux’s corner kicks actually bend…… but I digress. I think the weather is going to render the pitch unplayable. Which may or may not be a good thing, based on their recent performances. I think they need more practice time to get used to the Ruiz-less lineup that they still haven’t adjusted to yet. And there’s that Freddy Adu guy that still needs to be worked in to the mix. Maybe they can also use the rainy day and watch a movie called “Union vs Toronto FC from May 28, 2011.” I know that’s one of MY favorites.
The other aspect to consider are the faithful supporters who will brave the elements to attend this match. I think the match should be postponed in advance of this weather event to save the supporters from themselves. The match against Seattle showed that not all ticket-holding fans will show up during a rainy game, but a significant number of fans did. And this storm Sunday is not a run-of-the-Seattle-mill rain storm. There’s nothing I would rather have to round off my weekend than a Union shellacking of the Rev’s, but in the interest of public safety, this match should be played another day. We’ll have fun watching New England lose regardless of what date it’s actually played, so we can stow this game away for a rainy day. Oh, wait, nevermind.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
The Freddie Adu Experiment is underway. It’s a two-fold experiment: One side is Freddie proving that his positive performances with the U.S. National Team are a product of his overall maturation, and the other side is adding player into the Union side with less than half of the season left to play.
Adu’s path back to Major League Soccer has been circuitous, to say the least. He was signed by a Portugese team, and was loaned to teams in Greece, Turkey, and probably some recreation league teams and we just didn’t know about it. The point is, his passport has more ink than Lizardman’s body. The fact that he never locked down a spot with a top team was not all that surprising considering the modest success he enjoyed in MLS prior to that. Yes, he had youth on his side, but if one is to believe that he was the savior of soccer, shouldn’t he have been near the league’s best player? He re-emerged, however, as a surprise addition to the CONCACAF Gold Cup roster, and acquitted himself quite nicely. It could be said that in the last 2 matches of that tournament that he was the best American (damn that Giovani Dos Santos!). The propaganda that we’re being sold, er, the explanation is that he is still just 22 years old, and world football is tough. Freddie has been forged in the fires of superior training and higher-level strategy, and he is a new-and-improved version of the petulant, entitled brat, who used to mouth off to Coach Nowak (how he lived to tell about it, we’ll never know. He must have some scandalous photos).
His developement is all well and good. A team can never be at a loss for quality players, regardless of the sport. There is this simple matter of timing to be considered, however. Freddie was added to this team with roughly 1/3 of the team’s matches left to play. That doesn’t leave much time for him to find his fitness, and then figure out how the hell he’s going to fit with this team. I fully expected Adu to be in the starting XI this past Saturday vs. FC Dallas. The jerseys were already on sale (and if you think that doesn’t matter, you’re just clueless), and there was just so much hype and buzz about the signing. I don’t disagree with him getting minutes right away, but there were certain things he should have been aware of before coming on to the field, and observing from the bench would have taught him the following:
Justin Mapp only has one functional leg, Sebastien Le Toux couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat (unless the ball is stationary 12 yards from goal with only a keeper in front of him), there are 2 Farfans and they both play out of position (Gabe at left back, Mike at bench), Brian Carroll is zero part of the offense, Keon Daniel should be logging the lion’s share of the minutes at left midfield, Danny Mwanga is really talented but confused by his lack of minutes, and Jack McInerney is in the same boat.
My feeling is that for the rest of this month, Adu’s inclusion is going to be seen as a distraction and a disruption. This period of adjustment will only yield more draws, as the team will once again have to find an identity. I applaud the front office for trying something to get the team out of its rut of drawing matches, so that it can make the playoffs. Chemistry is vital in team sports, and Union do not have it. Players do not seem to know where to be, nor do they know what one another are thinking. There is seemingly no system in place to govern how players move without the ball. They don’t play enough minutes with the same team to inately understand where the passes are going. The addition of Adu, while good for the long-term, will continue this discombobulated trend. There is a saying in sports that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. If Union can’t get this figured out soon, there finish will come after the 34th game of their season.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
So, there have been a lot of things happening this past week… losses…ties…ties..bearfights. So, without further ado, a break down of the Pros and Cons of what has happened with the Philadelphia Union.
CON – Fan Favorites
I’ll come out and say it, after the game on Saturday versus Houston, there is no way Le Toux is not cursed. Prior to this game, I wanted him benched for at least a half and make him take notes and write an essay about what he should do, where he should go, and what is going on with the movement on the ball. Saturday, being his best game of the season in my view, was undeniably unlucky in a World Series of Dice fashion. But where he is unlucky, he is leaving goals and subsequent points in the standings off the board.
OOOOOH – Shoot the damn ball-all (to tune of seven nation army). Danny, I cannot say any more, louder, with more veins popping out of my neck, Shoot the damn ball! I’ve made plenty of comments on twitter, on forums, on the street, in my bed, in my head… everywhere. You are young, you can screw up, you can miss the goal for all I freaking care, but if you expect yourself to get picked up in Europe, in every situation you were in that had me yelling at you, they will not take you if you don’t shoot the frigging ball at goal when points are on the line – yet alone with half empty nets. You may be a fan favorite, for a long time, but let me tell you this – you CAN do wrong, especially when you’re doing nothing.
PROS – Starvin’ Marvins
Roger Torres, Vjelko “Old Serb” Paunovic, and Union Jack McInerney. 2 you would expect, and another you didn’t see coming, starving for the goals that have been absent (and relatively are for most of the season). Torres almost lead the team into a rally to tie the game against the defending MLS champs in the Rapids. Paunovic got the fire started with a nice shot from distance to take the lead in the first half verse Chicago. It’s what you gotta do when you have no box play – and trust me, this team has none. Unfourtanately that dwindled into a tie situation, one that could have easily changed if a certain someone had shot the ball instead of thinking about it. And then McInerney gets his start in the final game in 9 days versus Houston. What happens? A nice LEAD feed into the box by Le Toux, and without thinking even with it out of reach and a defender on him, Jack gets a lucky touch on the ball before the goalie to send it wobbling behind the keeper. I cheered, I cried, I kissed babies. It was a beautiful moment. Even more beautiful was the second goal, if it had happened. Differing reports say that he was clearly onsides, others say his foot crossed the path a split second early, and I say onsides. So, it was onsides and should have gone in ( ) but oh well. He gave us a lead, that we once again squandered.
CON – Something Smells Fishy (7/29/11)
As there are a multitude of fans who dislike him, plenty who started turning over a new leaf, and a good loyal few who supported the guy the second he got here, it was a shock to hear that the Union had sold Carlos Ruiz… Well, he wasn’t in the game, so we knew something was up. Although he was not a long term solution, he was still vital to a lot of chances we wouldn’t have if he wasn’t there (presence). I’m still chalking this up as a con even though plenty won’t agree. But, upon saying he was no longer Union’s property at that press conference, he still was. Tricky Nowak, he is. And it took another week before things settled into -
PRO – What’s Your’s is Mine
It started as “Ruiz is no longer with us.” Into “He is still property of the Union” and then “It is a complicated, multi-team deal.” Speculation would lead you, the unwitting soccer fan, into the idea that we are replacing Ruiz with someone, or trading him through a team to another team for money for another player… You basically need a John Madden teleprompter to think these things out. But we got sidetracked into a bittersweet solution that most of us forget about – loans.
Valdes is no longer loaned out to us. Instead, we own his ass. It was nice to hear, considering what happened with our previous loanee Orozco Fiscal (who will be with the USMNT tomorrow). It was very bittersweet because, we’ve gotten rid of two starters recently, and various reserves, and have yet to replace anyone. So to find out our first acquisition during the trade window is to own the rights of a player that wasn’t in question for another 6 months, was kind of a heart drop.
CON – Weight of the world
If anything damaging salary cap wise is the fact that we still have Juan Diego Gonzalez. I’m not knocking him as a player, or a person… I’m knocking the team for not ever using him during league play, and that it’s just a complete waste. If you’re not going to bother with him, get rid of him. Pick someone else up.
PRO – Soon enough
Rumor has it that someone’s contract was signed, for a year, on August 6/7 2010. Of course, it is likely we won’t hear any word on Gonzalez because of the Union policy of “We do not talk about players who are not under contract with the Union”. So for what it’s worth, we will probably not know he is off the team until some media guy (read: local aspiring journalist) asks the question and gets that response a month from now.
CON – Ejection in a bottle
During the Rapids game, some fan (read: moron) threw a bottle from the River End which resulted in a brawl. To the man who threw the bottle and subsequently did not like being pointed out for doing so, how old are you? 10? That’s the last time I had gotten into a fight for name calling and pointing. How much of a mental midget do you have to be to start a fight because you broke the rules and didn’t like being told on? This is besides throwing the bottle… I have anger issues myself, but I never throw things (in stadiums). Hope spending overinflated money on StubHub, the 20 dollar parking fee, and 3 $8-$10 beers you had was worth the night in jail. I’m sure Bubba gave you my regards.
Pro – All for one
Corner creeps get mad respect. As do all those around who either pointed the asshole out, or was able to (eventually) break up the fight and / or vindicate those who were only defending themselves. This is the only pro to this situation cause it only makes us all, as soccer fans, look bad.
CON – Why do they call them “Tie Fighters”?
I’m sick of leaving points on the field. Don’t you? Colorado was a travesty that there was no way in salvaging sans an extra time effort. But both Chicago and Houston feel dirty, and feel like a loss because we were up early and had to settle for a tie.
Pro – What do you mean pro!?
Yea, there’s really nothing positive about that. At least we didn’t completely lose it.
That was our week (and a half) in review. Tune back next time when 3 games happen within 8 days again while I have a shit ton of actual work to do.
8pm Saturday, PPL Park in Chester, PA, on 6ABC
First off, it can’t be said enough how STUPID it is to have your team named “Dynamo.”
Now, Union are coming off yet another disappointing result, albeit a draw where they at least collected a point. This is in contrast to the VERY disappointing home loss to Colorado, which collected them zero points. That being said, the result against Chicago wasn’t unexpected, given that they reverted to the maddening lineup decision to start with two central defensive midfielders. Given the lineup used Wednesday, I haven’t the foggiest friggin clue who will complete the XI Saturday. One thing is for sure, Sheanon Williams will return to right fullback.
And that’s a good thing because he will have his hands full with Houston left wing Brad Davis. The MLS “All-Star” (I put quotes around it because that team was a farce, but Davis is legitimately good) is what fuels Houston’s offense with his deft crosses. He’ll try to find Will Bruin and Brian Ching in the 18-yard box, and they’ll presumably try to score goals. I hope, of course, they don’t. It will be a reunion of sorts for Faryd Mondragon and Houston ‘keeper Tally Hall, who last saw each other taking turns betting beaten by Manchester United players during the “All-Star” game.
About our netminder, if it wasn’t for his positioning for a couple of saves, Union would have lost to Chicago by multiple goals. He came up huge in that match moreso than any match this season, and is the reason they were able to earn a point from last match. And that display happened with an additional defensive midfielder. So, the offense sucked, and the defense sucked. To me, that equals “don’t use that lineup anymore.” But this is a Peter Nowak team, so he’ll probably trot out the same lineup, but with Williams in it, just to piss me off.
Justin Mapp needs to sit. Sebastien Le Toux needs to stop taking free or corner kicks. Roger Torres needs to explain to his teammates what he’s looking for when he has the ball at his feet. The other attacking midfielders need to be more like Torres and not pass the ball backwards on one touch all the time. Carlos Valdes needs to remember how he played the first half of the season. My faith in this team isn’t waning, but they’re not playing well right now. Expect a 1-1 draw, and the need to drink sweet tea to get the bitter taste out of your mouth afterwards.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
Tonight, 9pm, Comcast SportsNet, from Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL.
So, who in the hell is going to play right fullback? Sheanon Williams’ red card against Colorado has put Union in an unfamiliar position. They are already playing with a mid-season replacement at left back, Gabriel Farfan, but have yet to have to replace their right back for even a minute of this season. This should be a massive problem, right?
Enter the Chicago Fire, who own the league’s worst home record. If there was EVER a good time to find out exactly how much versatility this roster has, this is the week. My guess is it’ll be our other Farfan, Michael, because, well, that’s Nowak’s new philosophy. When in doubt, just put Farfan in there. Who knows what he’s going to do if they need another attacking midfielder. Maybe Gabe and Mike have another brother, or a cousin….
Anyway, the bigger issue here is the need for Union to rebound from their first home loss of the season, and their first time in a long time not atop the standings table. A mid-week match against a bottom-feeder seems just the remedy. I normally think these mid-week matches are more arduous for the side, thus not a good thing, but in this case, the team needs to get the bad taste of last match out of their collective mouths. The sooner the next match came, the better.
I don’t care about Chicago’s team. Tonight is about Union accomplishing what they should get accomplished. Which means I do NOT want to see Kyle Nakazawa in the starting XI. He has looked tentative in attack ever since the friendlies against the European teams. The person who has looked best in that same timespan is Roger Torres. Starting him, however, would defy Nowak-logic, thus I expect Veljko Paunovic to start in the CAM spot tonight…. not that I want it that way, it’s just what is likely to be. And on that note, is it a good thing or a bad thing that we, as fans, have not the foggiest idea of what our starting XI will be from week to week? I say it’s a good thing, because it gives me something to discuss in previews, and something to complain about in post-match critiques.
So, for what I expect to happen, not what I would like, It will look something like:
Mwanga Le Toux
Mapp Carroll Paunovic Daniel
Garfan Califf Valdes Marfan
I could see this playing as a 3-5-2 also, with Paunovic playing as a CAM/recessed striker, and Neon Keon sliding into a more central position to allow Marfan to play the right wing. That’s likely how the attack will evolve anyway when pushing forward, but I think Nowak will have them start in the 4-4-2 they’ve played almost all of the season. Also, if Nowak would like to start Jack McInerney and show Sebastien Le Toux what the bench looks like, I’d be ok with that, too. Whoever plays in this match, I want a decisive victory for Union, at least 2-0. I think the clean sheet would be a nice achievement given that their normal right back is not in the lineup. They need to play more like 2nd half vs Colorado than 1st half vs Colorado. It’s about results, and Union need one badly to keep up with Columbus and to stay ahead of New York.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union